NASHVILLE (BP) — Southern Baptist sacrifice and generosity has pushed cumulative giving to the annual Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American Missions past the $2 billion mark. The milestone was announced by North American Mission Board (NAMB) president Kevin Ezell as he shared a report with members of the SBC Executive Committee Monday evening, September 20.
“What an amazing testimony to God’s faithfulness and to Southern Baptists’ commitment to the Great Commission,” Ezell said in earlier remarks. “It is humbling to look back over the years and think about all the missionaries who were supported and all those who were introduced to Christ because of this ministry that was sustained by this offering. The impact on eternity can’t be measured this side of heaven.”
Ezell said NAMB plans to announce the final total for this year’s offering after the first of October when the fiscal year concludes.
In 1895 the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) began collecting an offering for the Home Mission Board (predecessor to NAMB). In 1934, the offering was renamed after Annie Armstrong in recognition of her tireless work as an advocate for home missions. Armstrong served as WMU’s first national leader (corresponding secretary).
“It is simply astonishing that what began as coins placed in paper mite boxes has surpassed the $2 billion mark,” said Sandy Wisdom-Martin, WMU’s executive director. Armstrong distributed thousands of mite boxes to Southern Baptist women and encouraged them to give sacrificially. Most were small donations which, multiplied by thousands, started to add up for a significant impact.
“Annie Armstrong once wrote in her notebook, ‘The widow’s mite is still in circulation. Coined in the mint of self-sacrifice, its influence is being felt today by every member of the church of God.’ A century later, the influence of the sacrificial gifts of Southern Baptists continue to touch eternity. Because of these gifts, the gospel is shared, churches are planted, lives are changed and families are transformed,” Wisdom-Martin said.
The offering provides half of NAMB’s annual funding. Everything given to the offering is spent on missionaries and on the mission field. Resources go to pay salaries for church planting and compassion ministry missionaries across North America. The offering also funds start-up costs for new churches in under-reached areas and provides outreach events that help church plants engage their communities. Money given to the offering is spent in the year in which it is received. NAMB reports the expenditures to its trustees and WMU.
The cumulative gifts to the offering surpassed the $2 billion mark June 30.
“Thank you for the privilege of being able to take care of our missionaries,” Ezell told SBC Executive Committee members. That’s just a tremendous affirmation.”
Leading up to the 2020 pandemic, NAMB saw three consecutive years of record Annie Offerings. All-time highs were seen in 2017, 2018 and 2019, with the offering reaching $61.6 million. In 2020, most churches were closing their doors and facing financial uncertainty as the Annie offering season approached. The offering dropped nearly 20 percent to $49.4 million.
But even with the drop, the continued sacrificial giving combined with significant non-missionary budget cuts, allowed NAMB to maintain full funding levels to missionaries and keep new churches supported. No missionaries were called back from the field due to finances.
The spiritual need in North America is great: An estimated 75 percent of residents—275 million people—are lost, without a relationship with Jesus.
WMU continues to play a key role in promoting the offering each year. Its network of state and church-based organizations is a critical link in encouraging giving. “One of the primary reasons WMU was formed was to stimulate the grace of giving and systematically raise money for missions,” Wisdom-Martin said.